Since switching from OS X to Linux full-time now, I have even more of a need for the wonderful tools that FFMPEG makes available. I process a lot of video for the school and have been able to streamline the process even more now that I am fully on Ubuntu as the host OS.
Linux distros are always a little behind on current versions of software and this is the case with FFMPEG. So, I find it is always better to just compile it on my own. Here is what I found that works well under Ubuntu 12.10.
# cd /tmp
# git clone git://source.ffmpeg.org/ffmpeg.git ffmpeg
# cd ffmpeg
# ./configure --enable-libx264 --enable-gpl
# make install
You are going to want to compile with libx264 and you need to add that to the configure to get it baked-in. I am running ffmpeg now directly from Canon .MTS files now since my footage doesn’t require editing most of the time. After compiling with the above options, I can use ffmpeg with libx264 and get a 1.6 gig .MTS down to about a 250meg .MP4 file and still have excellent quality. Here are the ffmpeg flags that I am happy with
$ ffmpeg -i 00017.MTS -vcodec libx264 -s hd720 -async 2 -qscale 5 -strict experimental CommMtg20121029.mp4
This takes the raw .MTS file from the Canon HD camera and cuts it down nicely to something manageable to post to a website.